U.S. Chamber of Commerce CEO Thomas J. Donohue sent a letter to congressional leaders urging swift action to combat the coronavirus pandemic and provide economic relief to families, businesses, and communities across the country.
"We have not yet beaten the coronavirus or achieved the economic recovery that we all desire," Donohue wrote. "With the benefit of our experience to date and fresh data, Congress should enact proposals that are timely, temporary, and targeted to current needs. The Chamber urges policymakers to be judicious in their approach. While it is critical that Congress provide meaningful assistance to the unemployed, employers that continue to be negatively impacted by social distancing requirements, and state and local governments, it is also critical that we avoid counterproductive policies that will delay economic recovery or diminish long-term growth."
After conferring with members of all sizes across all industries as well as state and local chambers from every state and territory through formal working groups and daily in-depth discussion, the Chamber urges Congress to enact targeted and temporary measures that address the following five key areas:
* Liability Protection Against Unwarranted Lawsuits. Timely, temporary, and targeted liability relief will provide employers who follow public safety guidelines a safe harbor from unwarranted lawsuits and will hold bad actors accountable. These provisions will allow businesses of all sizes to operate and aid our nation's economic recovery. Specifically, the safe harbor should apply to businesses; health care providers on the front lines; and manufacturers making PPE, hand sanitizer, and other needed materials.
* Support for Small and Mid-Size Employers. While the CARES Act provided broad support to all industries Congress should now provide more targeted relief for industries, as well as small- and medium-sized businesses who remain fully or partially shuttered because of social distancing requirements. Assistance should include an extension of the Paycheck Protection Program, expansion of the Employee Retention Tax Credit, locally administered aid, and targeted tax provisions.
* Financial Assistance for Childcare and K-12 Schools. Reopening of the economy and schools must be safe and guided by public health officials. Childcare providers and schools are confronted with increased fixed costs to implement public health guidance and declining revenue., Congress should provide targeted funding to meet these temporary demands and ensure that schools and childcare providers have the resources necessary to safely reopen.
* Unemployment Benefits and Funding for Job Training. With more than 17 million unemployed, Congress needs to support the unemployed while aiding in the return to work. The current additional $600 weekly benefit must be revised as many workers presently earn more on unemployment benefits. The Chamber suggests a middle ground of 80% to 90% of a worker's prior wages (and a maximum of an additional $400 a week) or $200 additional a week for states unable to adjust their computer systems, and a gradual phase down of these benefits tied to the unemployment rate. Congress also should provide funding for states to implement rapid reskilling and job connection programs to assist those least likely to return to their old jobs find new employment.
* Assistance for State and Local Governments. State and local government are experiencing sharp reductions in revenue at the same time as they face increased costs to respond to the coronavirus. Steep budget cuts at the state and local level threaten to deepen the economic downturn. Congress should aid states and local government with these temporary expenses and temporary reductions in revenue. It is critical, however, that the approach be targeted and fiscally responsible.
For additional details on these five issues and other recommended legislative actions, click here (https://www.uschamber.com/letters-congress/us-chamber-letter-the-phase-4-coronavirus-relief-legislation).